All children experience discomfort in some way as they age and mature. Many children are quite resilient and encounter challenges that can be addressed by parents within the home. However, there will be times when nothing you do seems to improve the situation despite your best efforts. Knowing if a child needs help is not always easy. It’s helpful to know what to look for when your child’s struggles represent more than just “a phase.”
How do you know if your child’s issue is serious enough to need child therapy?
A child needing psychological help may display any of the following behaviors:
- Excessive worrying, anger, sadness, or anxiety
- Persistent or unusual fears
- Verbal or physical aggression
- Insistence on sameness, inability to tolerate small changes
- Few or no friends
- Nightmares or problems falling asleep
- Trouble getting out of bed in the morning and off to school
- Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork
- Poor academic performance
- Impulsivity, restlessness
- School refusal, skipping classes
This is not an exhaustive list of concerns. Unresolved issues in children can become much bigger problems during adolescence. Seek help if any of the things listed here are occurring or if the signs persist or are intense.
I will work closely with you as well as your child’s teachers, doctors, or other therapists to resolve issues now. Your child’s road to recovery should be a joint effort so that you never have to feel alone. Your child’s difficulties can stem from any number of things, but they don’t have to stand in the way of his or her success.
I imagine at this point you’re wondering what therapy involves, and what you’d be getting into. And even if you’ve been to therapy before, you’ve not been in a session with me. So let me take some time to explain the treatment process to you.
It all begins with an email or a phone call from you. When people make that first connection, it’s hard to wait, they’re eager to get started. And I know that, so I will personally respond to your call, usually within the same day. When I call you, I’m going to ask you some questions to find out if we’re the right fit for each other. I’ll also tell you a little bit about my process, and we’ll schedule our first appointment together. The first appointment I refer to as the “intake interview.” I’ll also direct you to areas on my website that contain my forms, and I’ll have you complete an intake packet and bring it with you to our intake interview. If you have previous evaluations, or other documents that you think will help me to understand you and your needs better, I encourage you to bring copies of those to the first appointment as well.
Once we have the intake interview, people are very eager to begin therapy, and the intake interview is the first part of the process of starting therapy together. Usually people are very nervous when they come to the first appointment, that’s normal. I would be nervous if I were meeting a stranger for the first time. People sometimes have an image of a therapist as somebody who just sits back and doesn’t respond much and listens a lot, and I want you to know that is not me. I am very, very eager to want to get to know you and to understand your problems and to figure out what we can do together to help you.
During the intake interview I’m going to ask you questions about yourself. I want to know more about your background; I want to know about your educational history, your work history. I’ll ask you questions about your medical history, your family history, and I want to know particularly information about the history of the problem that brings you in to see me. We’ll work together to identify goals for your therapy, and then I will offer you some recommendations about how I think I can help you to reach those goals.
When the patient is a child, the initial intake interview involves parents or guardians. That appointment is about 90 minutes, and it allows me time to find out about mental history and background about your child. Following that we’ll schedule an appointment for me to spend time one-on-one with your child in my playroom. And that gives me an opportunity to observe your child clinically, get some ideas about what might be going on, but importantly it allows your child a chance to feel comfortable with me, and comfortable in the room. Now sometimes when I’m working with children, I also find it helpful to see the child and his or her parents in the playroom. And I’ll let you know if I think that that’s going to be an important part of our intake process together.
When I’m working with an adolescent the process is a little different. When I’m working with an adolescent, the first appointment is me and the adolescent together. And that allows me to get some information about the adolescent’s perspective on the problem, and it allows the adolescent a chance to feel like this is something that he or she owns, it belongs to them and they’re more invested in therapy. After that interview is concluded then I’ll schedule the full-length interview with parents or guardians to get the rest of the background information. Any time I’m working with your child or your adolescent, I invite you to spend time in my waiting room where you can make yourself comfortable and feel at home.
Once we finish the intake interviews, then we’ll have identified the problems, we’ll have come up with a plan for how to address them, and then we’re ready to start the therapy interventions, so we’re now at the point of starting therapy together. Some of the frequently asked questions I get at this point are; might I need medication as part of my therapy? And if you do, I know some very qualified physicians that I’ll recommend you give a call, and they will help us together in working on your treatment. Another question I’m frequently asked at the beginning of therapy is, how long am I going to need to see you, and how frequently do we need to get together? And really that depends on the severity of your problem and the nature of your problem. Usually people come to see me once a week, and those appointments are about 45 to 50 minutes in length. I find it very, very helpful to meet with parents on a regular basis, and that allows me a chance to get updates from you on things that are happening outside of the therapy, I can give you updates on your child or adolescent’s progress in therapy, and it’s a chance for us to coordinate the treatment together.
What makes me different from a lot of the other practitioners is that you’ll get very personal service from me in my practice. There’s no middleman, there’s no secretaries or receptionists, there’s no body else you have to tell the story to. It’s just you and me on this journey together, and at the end of the journey it’s my fondest hope that you’ll be in a better place.